at Deir el-Medina
|French mission's campaign at Deir el-Medina in 2012
by Cédric Gobeil (Institut français d’archéologie orientale - IFAO / The Université du Québec à
Montréal - UQAM)
The 2012 campaign of the French mission at Deir el-Medina took place from the 1st of March to the
12th of April 2012 under the direction of Cédric Gobeil (IFAO/UQAM). Also participating in the work
were Hassan al-Amir (conservationist, IFAO), Olivier Onézime (topographer, IFAO), Anne-Claire Salmas
(Egyptologist), Delphine Driaux (Egyptologist), Anne Elise Austin (anthropologist, University of California,
Los Angeles - UCLA), Abla al-Bahrawy (masters student, German University in Cairo). The Supreme
Council of Antiquities - CSA was represented by Gamal Ramadan, Al-Azab and Ragab Hassan Gomaa
(Hassan al-Amir, IFAO)
Restoration of the ceiling of the chapel called Opet
From the 14th of March to the 7th of April, Hassan al-Amir and his team of workers spent part of
their time restoring the chapel called Opet. The chapel is located against the northern side of the
village's enclosure wall. The remains were discovered and described by Bernard Bruyère in 1934. This
structure is one of the "Chapelles des Confréries" (Rapport sur les fouilles de Deir el Médineh (1934-
1935) 3me partie, Le village, les décharges publiques, la station de repos du col de la Vallée des Rois,
FIFAO 16, 1939, p. 36-39.)
Apart from the fact that this clearly is a Ramesside building and the god resident there is depicted as a
mummy (fig. 48 in the on-line Rapport - The northern half of the east wall of the chapel showing the
representation of a god in the form of a mummy on a pedestal) the current state of the decoration does
not allow a precise date to be assigned to it or to establish which god this chapel was specifically
The importance of the chapel restoration lies in the fact that it is the only structure still retaining an
original painted decoration within the village, with the exception of the painted fragment of the little
dancer in the house SE VIII. The painted decoration on the chapel wall (about 6 square metres are
preserved), could have been lost if no action had been taken to save it. In addition, twenty decorated
fragments were found in the debris that littered the floor. They all will be restored to the wall in 2013.
To ensure the painting has a safe and healthy environment, the action taken this year was to replace the
roof of the chapel. The roof was designed by Bruyère and was threatening to collapse at any moment:
several beams were fractured (also see fig. 49 in the on-line Rapport - the link to it is at the end of
this page - The first roof of the chapel called Opet during disassembly) and may have fallen directly onto
the two walls separating the main room of the pronaos. These walls display the most beautiful scenery of
the chapel, namely two fat oxen being brought as an offering (fig. 50-The two walls separating the main
room of the pronaos in the Opet chapel showing two fat oxen as an offering, fig. 51-The chapel called
Opet before installing the new roof). A new stronger wooden roof was built over the chapel. It is covered
with the same materials as those used in the restoration of the village in order to better blend within
the existing environment (fig. 52-A new roof installed on the Opet chapel was covered with the same
materials as those found on the whole site). A metal door was also installed (fig. 53-A new safe metal
door at the entrance to the chapel of Opet) to facilitate access to the chapel whose entrance was
walled and sealed before.
After finishing the work of preliminary restoration undertaken during this season, the interior walls of
the chapel will be fully restored next year. In addition, after the installation of electricity and lighting,
it will also be open to the public. A publication of the restored chapel and the newly described fragments
is being considered.
Reconstruction of the chapel of Ramose's tomb 212
From the 26th of March to the 7th of April, Hassan al-Amir and his team of workers were engaged in
the reconstruction of the chapel dedicated to scribe Ramose (first half of the reign of Ramesses II).
The chapel is located on the upper terrace of the northern part of the western necropolis. The remains
of the chapel consist of a vaulted room carved within the slope of the mountain (west half) and the three
of its adobe walls (west and south) forming the southern half of the antechamber. The decoration is
essentially still in place surviving on the back wall of the chapel (west) and on the ceiling (also see fig. 54
-The chapel of the tomb TT 212 before restoration); traces of red, yellow, blue, white and black
pigments still exist on the plaster. Before the intervention, the remains of the chapel decoration were
completely exposed to the elements and therefore in danger of disappearing.
It was necessary to reconstruct the superstructure of the chapel so that it covers all ancient elements
needed to be conserved. The first step of this work required the cleaning of the chapel's floor. During
this work a large number of strips of mummy bandages were uncovered alongside with a decorated and
inscribed fragment of linen (DM 2012 to 0001) (fig. 55 in the on-line Rapport), a shaped terracotta
amulet (DM 2012-0002 ), a fragment of a faience hawk amulet and 13 faience beads (DM 2012 to
0003) (fig. 56) and a terracotta oil lamp (DM 2012 to 0004 ) (fig. 57). A publication of the linen
fragments is in preparation.
Once the floor was cleared, the four walls of the superstructure were reconstructed following the original
ground plan of the chapel. The eastern half of the vaulted nave was also rebuilt to complement
and solidify the entire site. A wooden roof similar to the one installed in the Opet chapel was also
provided; a metal door was installed to secure access to the chapel (fig. 58 in the on-line Rapport).
Other restoration work
Alongside the restoration work described above, Hassan al-Amir and his team were also involved in work
around different parts of the western necropolis. Entrances into several shaft tombs with dangerous
access were closed - tombs P329 (Mose and Ipy, Ramesside) and P1206 (anonymous) were shut (fig.59 in
the on-line Rapport). In addition the ceiling of the chapel of TT290 (Irynefer, Ramesside period) was
consolidated because it showed some signs of wear. The previous wooden roof was strengthened by the
addition of new wooden beams.
Since 2010, the ground of forecourts of tombs TT 217 (Ipuy, reign of Ramesses II), TT 266
(Amennakht, 19th dynasty) and TT 267 (Hay, 20th dynasty), located on the upper terrace of the
western necropolis were covered with debris from the elements of recent erosions. Hassan and his team
carried out the removal of this debris and cleared the sector to prepare three tombs for their future
(Olivier Onézime and Abla al-Bahrawy )
Topographical survey of the village
From the 11th to the 23rd of March 2012, Olivier Onézime began a new topographical survey of the
village of Deir el-Medina to obtain a map of the current state of its walls. The outcome of the work will
clarify the intervention strategy for future restoration of the village. The entire surrounding wall
together with the northern third of the village itself were documented. Two excavations were conducted.
The ground plan of the Opet chapel was delineated and two excavations (EW and SW) were completed.
During the next season, the surveying of the village will be continued and the cellars will be investigated.
Topographical survey of the western necropolis
Besides his work in the village, Olivier Onézime began the year's topographical survey of the western
necropolis. The objective of this task was to give a better idea of the complexity of the tombs of Deir
el-Medina while helping the team to plan future restoration and future studies. During the survey, TT290
(Irynefer) was the first tomb to be examined. In addition to traditional surveys - the floor plan and two
sections (EastWest and NorthSouth) were mapped - Olivier Onézime made a photogrammetric survey
(noncontact imaging) of the vaults to design a 3D image recreating the interior of the tomb. This
technique, which gives remarkable results, can then be applied to other structures of Deir el-Medina to
enable virtual tours of parts of the site not accessible to the public. Tomb chapels TT6 and TT 250 also
underwent the same process - conventional survey and 3D imaging of these two tombs were completed.
Topographical and architectural survey
of the dig house at Deir el-Medina
From the 26th to the 31st of March 2012, Abla al-Bahrawy (masters student, German University in
Cairo) temporarily joined the mission to produce a topographical and architectural survey of the dig house,
that IFAO occupies at Deir al-Medina. During this short time she measured all the rooms of the house
(outside and interior) and drew up the general plan. She also took several pictures to document her work
which will undoubtedly provide valuable documentation of this important site. The dig house was originally
built for Ernesto Schiaparelli and is now occupied by the team of Cédric Gobeil.
(Anne -Claire Salmas, Delphine Driaux, Anne-Elise Austin and Cédric Gobeil)
From the 1st March to the 12th April 2012, Anne-Claire Salmas worked in the tomb TT 2
(Khabekhenet, reign of Ramesses II), which had previously been assigned to Agnes Cabrol. After all the
dust that covered the tomb had been removed, the beautiful floor of the original limestone chapel was
revealed. Several fragments of decorated walls lying on the ground were packed into boxes to ensure
their protection before being restored and repositioned on the walls. After this first step, the current
state of the east and north walls of the chapel was recorded on transparent films (fig. 60).
During this year, three stelae from the forecourt, two entry walls, east and north walls and the base of
the two statues leaning against the west wall could finally be drawn. An analysis of these records, mostly
unpublished, will be conducted by IFAO in the near future. These surveys will also establish a final text
of these walls, the first version had already been given by Jaroslav Černý in his Répertoire onomastique
de Deir el-Médineh, DFIFAO 12, Cairo 1949, in cooperation with B. Heather and J.J. Clere, before
being reviewed by K.A. Kitchen in KRI III, 799-817.
From the 30th of March to the 9th of April 2012, Delphine Driaux worked in the tomb TT 6 (Nebnefer,
end of the 18th to beginning of the 19th dynasty). She was responsible for publishing the manuscript
Henry Wild had written on the tomb already published by IFAO (La tombe de Neferhotep (I) et
Nebnefer a Deir el Medina (no. 6) et autres documents les concernant. [Le Caire] : Institut francais
d'archeologie orientale, <1979-,v. <2 >).
Some iconographic and textual audits were conducted in the chapel and in the tomb. The progress on the
manuscript gives hope that the publication will be in the press soon.
From the 1st of March to the 12th April 2012, Cédric Gobeil continued his work in TT 250 (occupied by
female relatives of the household of the scribe Ramose, reign of Ramesses II), where work began in
2009. Gobeil continued with his systematic survey of the walls of the central chapel: the middle register
of the northern wall was completely drawn and inked using Adobe Illustrator (fig. 61 in the on-line
Rapport - detailed view of the drawing of the middle register of the north wall of the central chapel of
the TT 250).
Human remains of the western necropolis
From the 24th of March to the 7th of April 2012, Anne Elise Austin undertook a study of human remains
still present in Deir al-Medina. The main objective of the analysis was to see if some physical markers
could be detected among individuals who lived at Deir el-Medina during different times and to acquire new
data that could answer the question of whether physical links among the individuals living at Deir el-
Medina at different times can be found. The results will lead to a better understanding of the evolution
of the population over the long period. Undoubtedly this study should provide the researchers with new
knowledge not only about the health, behaviour and activities of this ancient population, but also about its
ecological and socio-cultural environment.
During this season Anne-Elise Austin established preliminary bases for her future work on the site. She
also conducted an inventory (database and photos) of human remains present in all the tombs the opening
of which were asked for (fig. 62 - Human skull being studied in TT 217), as well as those stored in the
Store Carter from TT 323 at Deir el-Medina. In addition to twenty mummies counted in Store Carter,
it was found that there were nearly sixty dismembered bodies in TT 290-291 and hundreds of mummies
in the rooms adjacent to TT 6.
For the next season, permission was requested with the Department of Antiquities to continue the study
of these human remains. Work was conducted in TT 217, which contains a dozen mummies, although it
was established that they all originated from several other tombs. Their study remains of interest -
their good state of preservation allows a very fine anthropological analysis.
Visitors to the site
On the 8th of April 2012, the IFAO mission was pleased to receive a visit from Professors Dominique
Valbelle (University of Paris IV-Sorbonne) and Charles Bonnet (University of Geneva). Both were
accompanied by the Director of Antiquities of the west bank Dr Mohammad Al-Aziz Abb.
After the visit of the site and inspection of the restoration work carried out during the season, the
decision was taken to establish a study committee at Deir al-Medina in mid-September 2012 so that all
partners could meet and discuss all future restorations. The purpose of this meeting is to prepare a
coordinated response strategy specifying the methods to be used and the means by which they will be
Translated from the IFAO Report 2011-2012 with the help of Google translator and additional input of
my brother Jaroslav Bican from Prague, Czech Republic. The French text and the illustration referred to
in the text above can be viewed at:
The page is published with the kind permission of the IFAO mission's director Dr. Cédric Gobeil and with
the kind permission of the IFAO publishing department (granted by Florence Albert).
|These 2 pictures were taken by Elvira Kronlob in 2012.
They show the strengthening of the weakened ceiling.